The wonderful research by Marj Shultz and Shelton Zedeck tells is that listening is one of the fundamental lawyering skills that all lawyers, especially recent graduates, need to have in their toolkit upon graduation. So for the last few years, I have been trying to find ways to incorporate lessons on the skill of listening into my teaching. I just saw a TED talk on listening. http://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better.html In it, Julian Treasure recognizes the role of listening in stemming injustice and also gives some ideas that could inspire innovation in how we can teach the skill of listening. What do you think? Any ideas on how the exercises can be adapted for legal education?
It is fantastic to see clinical work-product being used in court cases; to have clinical briefs being referenced in front of the Supreme Court of the United States shows the impact that effective experiential study can have and the effects that clinic experience can have on the future practices of these students.
“The April 30, 2013 issue of Law Week (Vol. 81, No. 41: the Supreme Court opinions issue) reports three interesting decisions, but these decisions are also interesting for another reason, visible in the lists of counsel at the end of each case. It turns out that clinical programs were on the briefs for all three cases.
The Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic helped represent Adrian Moncrieffe in his successful challenge to the argument that his conviction for possession of 1.3 grams of marijuana with the intent to distribute (not necessarily to sell) was an aggravated felony barring him from eligibility for certain discretionary relief from deportation. Moncrieffe v. Holder (No. 11-702, decided April 23, 2013)
The Institute for Public Representation, a program of Georgetown University Law Center, helped represent the plaintiffs/petitioners in McBurney v. Young (No. 12-17, decided April 29, 2013), an unsuccessful effort to establish that Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, which offers access to information only to Virginians, was unconstitutional under either the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the US Constitution’s Article IV, § 2, cl. 1, or under the Constitution’s “dormant commerce clause.”
The George Mason University School of Law Supreme Court Clinic helped represent the State of Louisiana in Boyer v. Louisiana (No. 11-9953, decided April 29, 2013), in which the Supreme Court dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. Boyer contended that the prolonged delays in his trial were attributable to the state’s failure to fund the public defender system, and that his right to a speedy trial had been violated, but the Court, over a dissent by Justice Sotomayor (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan) did not rule on the constitutional question.
It may be that no member of the clinical community will agree with the arguments advanced by all three of these clinical programs in these cases. That’s fine, and just as academic freedom gives protection to clinics undertaking controversial cases so it gives protection to debate over what cases clinics ought to take. But what strikes me about this issue of Law Week is the unmistakable illustration of the fact that clinics are now a force shaping American law, in many local courts and offices and also in the highest court in the land.”
Professor and Associate Dean, New York Law School
The original post can be found here.
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The following post comes to us from a very special blogger, Shailini Jandial George, who is a Professor at Suffolk University Law School.
You have experienced a scenario like this: your students come to class with laptops, I pads and phones. They text and email during class. They giggle at something on their screens while you’re lecturing. They’re typing too fast to be taking notes on your lecture. You walk around the room and see Facebook or other social media sights on their screens. If you’ve experienced any of this, or just generally wonder about your students’ ability to focus and concentrate when they are used to this kind of constant stimulation, you’re not alone.
Our students grew up on computers, are used to googling the answers to questions, and are not in the habit of reading. Rather, they read in bits and starts, often clicking on hyperlinks before they read one document front to back. They often do at least two things at once. Research shows that this constant multitasking affects the brain and its ability to learn. Learning happens when we pay attention and process information. Multitasking prompts the wrong part of the brain to fire up (the part once used by cavemen to sense danger and flee) as opposed to the front of the brain used for deep focus and concentration. Some ideas as to how we can change this:
1.Teach students how to learn. They think they know, but they likely have never heard the term metacognition (“awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition”). They should be instructed in the steps of learning and that law school involves the highest levels of learning—levels they may not have approached prior to law school.
2.Instruct students on the perils of multitasking. While they likely think they can do many things at once, that’s not true unless the two things are like reading and chewing gum. They should know that science has proven that we’re actually task “switching”, jumping from task to task, and that we leak a little mental efficiency with each “switch”.
3.Teach students about successful learning methods. Many are used to highlighting and rereading to “learn” material. Cognitive educational theory shows that those are the two least successful study techniques. Study techniques involving self-questioning, self-explanation, intermittent study of topics, and testing are more successful.
4.Teachers should design their courses by first considering the learning objectives and goals and working backwards to ensure they are met.
5.Teachers should use more visual aids and visual exercises so as not to overtax any one learning “channel”. Straight lecture can overburden the verbal channel. Visual aids and exercises engage more of the students’ learning channels and promote higher levels of learning, particularly where those exercises engage students’ higher order thinking skills.
6.Teachers should use more assessments so students can determine early and often whether they are learning the material. These assessments should mimic the type of assessments on which students’ grades will be based.
Have you found that your students are distracted? Do you wonder if class or the work holds their focus? I’d love to hear others’ perspectives!
Yesterday, I sat on the stage of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) and for the 24th time fondly watched law students traverse the stage, receive their juris doctoris diploma, and begin their post-law school lives. I listened to my 24th Commencement Speaker, National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg. She urged law graduates to look to courageous and humble role models including Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who pioneered equal access to justice and reminded us that ”it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.” Ms. Totenberg and other honored speakers, including the student representative, did not ignore the difficult economy these graduates face. They just did not let such challenges limit the enjoyment of the spectacularly beautiful day or define the worth of the graduates. There was an infectious air of optimism and hope honoring the hard work done, the dreams shared, and the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired. One of those graduates was this blog’s own Stephanie Gianchristofaro-Partyka who has spent the past year assisting in all things “Best Practices. “ We cross our fingers along with her as she waits to hear back from criminal defense employers. Good-bye, thank you, and good-luck to Stephanie from this blog’s contributors and readers!
Once the ceremony ended and the last photos with families were taken, faculty returned to grading! The ABA Weekly Newsletter and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/05/10/law-prof-lets-scrap-the-gentlemans-c/ , have both reported on a grading proposal by University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Professor Joshua Silverstein, namely that “Law Schools Should Mostly Ditch C Grades.” http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/law_schools_should_mostly_ditch_c_grades_law_prof_argues
Silverstein notes on his SSRN site that “C marks virtually always denote unsatisfactory work in American graduate education. Law schools are the primary exception to this convention. It is time we adopted the practice followed by the rest of the academy.”
Reasons to “ditch” the C’s include:
- inequity - many law schools ranked in the top tier by U.S. News essentially have eliminated the use of C grades, while policies in fourth-tier schools often encourage or require large numbers of Cs
- jobs – grading policies which encourage low grades damage students’ placement prospects
- stress – Cs do psychological injury to law students generally familiar with achieving A’s and B’s
I find Professor Silverstein’s arguments persuasive, but the need to make the arguments saddens me. Almost seven years ago, Roy Stuckey et. al. urged law schools to stop “sorting” students by a method that is only helpful to prospective employers looking for a simple screening system and instead to provide formative and evaluative assessment of law students and graduates. This shift would create a more competent profession and more able learners. Such an assessment structure would eliminate the issues which Silverstein’s C’s raise. (You either become increasingly competent to practice and engage with the law or you need to re-assess your life goals!) Despite this reasoned plea, the media and the academy is still stuck in a mindset that focuses on sorting methods and ”grade inflation” rather than on better preparation and assessment of law students to serve clients and society.
Thankfully, my final grading this semester includes such assessment methods: clinical performance evaluations, student reflections and hybrid field supervisor evaluation and input. In end of semester meetings, after 14 weeks of clinical pedagogy, this group of students was able to honestly evaluate strengths, abilities not yet acquired and ways to obtain necessary skills and abilities either in the next year of law school (second years) or in the early years of practice/pro-bono/business work (third years). And I was able to review a series of simulations, real work product, classroom activities and a feedback loop to determine my grades. The students were able to acknowledge the psychologoical and personality issues which obstructed their growth and identify practice situations well-suited or ill-suited for them. These students have learned to be more reflective, to “own” their education and career formation, and to care deeply about their role in improving justice and the profession. Justice Powell and Nina Totenberg would be proud of them …..and so am I.
What do you think about Silverstein’s arguments and about your effective assessment methods?
The “transparency” of law school employment statistics has been widely criticized and robustly discussed over the past few years, resulting in changes to ABA accreditation rules and to law schools’ documentation and reporting of their graduates employment status. Just last week, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) http://iaals.du.edu/, announced a new employment calculator intended to be used as an alternative to the traditional and, in the opinion of many, biased current ranking system:
Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, an initiative of IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, is pleased to announce Law Jobs: By the Numbers™ (http://educatingtomorrowslawyers.du.edu/law-jobs), an interactive online tool that gives prospective law students the most transparent and complete law school employment rate information available.
So what makes this calculator more transparent? According to the website, it is an incredibly “powerful” tool because “It lets the users create their own rates and, because we have made the formulas completely transparent and accessible, it teaches them how different criteria can impact the employment rates reported by schools, publications, and organizations.
If you click on it, you will notice that users can ”choose their own” formulas such as “whether bar passage is required, whether a position is full time, or whether a job is funded by the law school.” formula stands up against those from leading publications and organizations. You can also choose to rank all schools or compare specific schools.
I spent just a few moments on the calculator and found it to be very interesting and informative about employment parameters and about the type of information which goes into creating employment ”statistics, misleading statistics and outright lies’ (to paraphrase a famous quote). I also believe that the more alternative information and evaluation sources available, the less power US NEWS has to lead legal education by the nose. And that, my friends, seems like a step forward!
Just got this email from Chris Anderson, TED Curator. Should be worthwhile for anyone interested in how to improve teaching and learning.
Dear TED community,
I am proud to announce that TED Talks Education, our first original televised event, premieres this Tuesday, May 7, on PBS stations across the US. It will be available globally on the PBS website starting May 8.
Hosted by John Legend, TED Talks Education asks how can we better inspire our students — and support our educators. TED, WNET, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting teamed up for this brand-new one-hour special, launched in response to the high dropout rate in American schools.
TED Talks Education is an exhilarating night of new talks by Sir Ken Robinson, Geoffrey Canada, Bill Gates and some truly inspiring teachers. In fact, we’ve just posted the first of them today on TED.com. Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, delivers a rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.
Please set your DVR, and let your friends and colleagues know to watch on Tuesday, May 7, at 10/9c on PBS stations across the US (you can check local station listings at top right of this page) — and visit pbs.org/TEDTalksEd after Wednesday, May 8, to watch the whole show online. And we will be releasing most of the speakers as TED Talks from May 8-10 on our homepage.
Our intention was to create an authentic TED event, filmed in a way that makes it compelling television. We really think it worked. We hope you love it as much as we do.
In March 2012 I delivered a talk at TEDxVillanovaU about The Future of Higher Education, in which I spoke about how online learning can bring about a democratization of higher education. Renee Knake of Michigan State has taken the idea further and applies it to legal education in her forthcoming article, Democratizing Legal Education. Elizabeth Chambliss talks about the article, here.
What do you think? It is possible to democratize information about law and legal systems? What are the barriers? Who will be the gatekeepers? What groups would want to see it happen and would they be willing to fund it?